KQED Perspectives: The Glass Ceiling

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At a recent business meeting, I found myself feeling distinctly out of place. At first I didn’t know why.

I realized that in this room full of senior business professionals, I was the only woman. One of the men extended his hand, and asked… which of the other men I was with. Not my name, not who I worked for, but who I was with.

As I’ve progressed to my current position as general counsel, I’ve increasingly found myself the lone woman in a sea of men. Seeing a woman in corporate leadership is so rare that this man assumed I was someone’s guest.

I laughed it off then, but the lack of gender diversity in corporate leadership is no joke. 24 Fortune 500 companies have no women on their boards. And although women hold more than half of all professional-level jobs, they make up only 14.6% of executive officers and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

When I talk about adding women to boards, I’m asked one question: Why add women to leadership positions? My answer is — why not? Why is the default leader male?

Studies show that having women in leadership maximize shareholder value. We should stop questioning the value women bring to a company!

We should also stop questioning the supply of qualified women. The real problem is not supply, but demand. The talent pool is already there, it’s up to companies to recruit from it.

To achieve gender equality, we need to focus on the right issues. It’s not about “adding women” for diversity’s sake. Let’s start shifting the burden of proof. Let’s stop asking whether women should be in leadership, and start asking why they’ve been excluded in the first place.

Published on KQED’s Perspectives